Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An

Dickheads shit-talk huddled and single-file. First-world frat-boys and prairie skinheads who will never walk a mile or mourn a murdered friend in this tiny woman’s shoes. Drink up and mumble your abuse. I’m still humbled by it all: around the same time that i was riding with no hands, busting windows and getting busy behind the sportsplex (with Labonte’s older sister decked out in her Speedos), Bella was flinching from the sting of a Depo Proveran “family planning,” her own Pearl Harbour and a holocaust spanning 25 years to the rest of her life. A prison my country underwrote in paradise. And in the shadows of Santa Cruz, she crossed her fingers behind her back. Built Suharto a Trojan horse and lay still till the motherfucker sent her north where as night fell she emerged with a box under her arm that held her pledge of allegiance and her uniform. She laid it at the gates of the General’s embassy and her whisper echoed into dawn as she disappeared: The truth will set my people free.

This song was inspired by the real-life story of Bella Gahlos. We met her in 1997 at an East Timor Alert Network benefit in Winnipeg. We are humbled to have crossed paths with her. This is her story:

Bella Gahlos is one of three East Timorese who have defected to Canada. She was only three years old when Indonesia invaded her country. Her two young brothers were beaten to death and her father was thrown into jail when the Indonesian military entered her home in January 1976. After the Dili massacre, her older brother was jailed and brutally tortured for having made a “Free East Timor” T-shirt worn by some of the demonstrators.

Although she focused on her personal experience as a young survivor of the Indonesian occupation, Bella also addressed U.S. complicity in the invasion and occupation of East Timor and the United States government’s continuing military and economic support for the brutal Suharto regime.

In her talks, Bella often recounted her experience with Indonesia’s forced sterilization of Timorese women and girls. She was only thirteen years old when the military came to her school and asked all the young women to line up after forcing the boys to leave the room.

“They told us we needed to be injected to stay healthy,” she explained. “I was frightened; I didn’t trust them. Five of them had to hold me down, and they had a very hard time. Then they came to my home the same week and injected me again.”

Much later, with the help of Bishop Belo, she discovered that she and her classmates had been injected with Depo-Provera (a birth control drug).

Bella also spoke of living under a constant fear of being raped: “Women in East Timor are raped all the time by the military. They just come into your home and force you.”

Bella began to work with the underground resistance in 1989, helping to plan demonstrations and convincing other women to take an active role in the movement. In 1991, Bella helped to organize the peaceful march to the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili. When the Indonesian military opened fire on the demonstration, Bella managed to get herself and her pregnant aunt over the high cemetery walls to safety. More than 250 of her friends were not so lucky, being brutally killed in the massacre.

In the aftermath of the massacre Bella joined the Indonesian military youth corps to mask her involvement in the demonstration. For three years the Indonesian authorities trained her to fight against her own people. During this time, Bella secretly used her army salary to help the resistance movement.

In 1994, after months of interrogation and instruction, the Indonesian government selected Bella to represent East Timorese youth in the Canada World Youth program. She was well trained to speak to the Canadian media and to portray Suharto’s propaganda machine’s version of a “typical” young Timorese - educated, successful, and pro-integration.

Bella defected after her arrival in Canada with the help of her uncle, Constâncio Pinto, who had escaped East Timor shortly after the Dili massacre. Since then, Bella has been perfecting her English and touring Canada to speak for her country’s freedom. To learn more or to join her struggle, visit the East Timor Alert Network.

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